© Gertjan Kooij / Beeldboot

The preparations for the Olympic Games

The Olympic Games take place over a period of two weeks, and in order to be in the best physical and mental condition during this period, the competing teams work on their preparation in many different ways. These mainly depend on whether or not the players have taken part in the club competition throughout the recent season.

What do these preparations look like?

In Spain the coach Dragan Matutinovic implemented an extreme preparation for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. It included an 8 km mountain run, followed by a jump in the water to swim another 10 km. Even today it is discussed whether this was the cause of the first silver medal for the Spanish water polo or not. In 2008 team USA organised some activities with the Navy Seals seeking to create a greater team spirit and self-sacrifice.  One of them was lying on the shore while holding hands, holding the breath while the shore break waves were hitting you.

Regarding these Olympic games, most European countries come from a long season having played many games both on the club level as well as national teams. Therefore, many players will have about 10 days off before beginning the final preparation. Usually it consist of a month and a half long program: this, taken in account the exhausting season, does not leave much room for an extremely demanding preparation.

The non-Europeans, Japan, Australia and the US, barely played games and only a few players were playing in European leagues. Therefore, the Olympic preparation of these countries has been going for now almost 8 months, which allows for a long and heavy training.

Brazil, the only missing non-European country participating, with all team members playing in European clubs, had a somewhat half way preparation. We took advantage of breaks for the European Championships and Olympic Qualification tournament to carry out large loads of training. Our break has been minimal in order to quickly start the preparation.

Why are these preparations so special?

In a minority sport such as water polo, the term “Olympic cycle” is used quite a lot because the growth of the sport in the country and its future financing rely heavily on Olympic result. it is during these 15 days when many people who do not follow the waterpolo start watching the games, and the media coverage suddenly multiplies.

Therefore, the importance of the Olympics over a period of 4 years for the sport in the country combined with this media “pressure” are a reason that the preparation for the Olympics in all countries has different traits than other non-olympic years.  Coaches prepare their players for a situation of extreme physical and psychological strain, and they do this through endless, demanding and intense workouts. These are really endless summers, though clearly justified in the end by how amazing it is to live this competition. Even though they are defined by these moments where you need to leave you family, friends, and simply enjoying the summer apart, and this requires a lot of psychological strength.

I finished the European Champions League of clubs a week ago, and 3 days lates, after traveling from Europe to Brazil, have started or am continuing the preparations ( depending on how you look at it, hahaha) with my team-mates.  On Tuesday 14 June, after 10 consecutive training sessions, we embarked for China for the finals of the World League. It's still a long road ahead...

Felipe Perrone

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